CityEngine and Bank Barns? Built Heritage meets Geodesign

Variant versus True Bank Barns in CityEngine??

 Imagination is required to use CityEngine, I’ve said this before and I say it a lot in our 3DPathFinder CityEngine training sessions (shameless plug).   The power of the rule file is in it’s ability to be used in other contexts and is often only limited by your imagination.  Some of what I think Geodesign is also about this, connecting up other peoples workflows, joining disciplines together to form a coherent team.

Take the humble rule that places a parapet around a roof top and places a satellite dish inside, this is the same rule that I use to make my infamous “procedural sheep”.  Get your head around that and the world is yours (in a metaphorical sense).

What do you mean you haven’t heard about my Procedural Sheep??!


This leads me to a little rule file I adapted yesterday, my colleague and friend Matthias had created a couple of rule files for a client (Philadelphia University’s Geodesign course).  One rule file coloured a surface depending on the steepness of a slope, which clearly when drawing a path or a road can be useful.  The other rule file was one that placed arrows facing down a slope in a grid pattern, think about water run-off and this is cool, useful stuff.  

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Procedural Amphitheatre


In a free hour (literally 1 hour), I created a CGA rule that creates a procedural amphitheatre.

It is full circle or circle segment based (0-360 degrees), has attributes for inner and outer radius.

 Additionally, I can drive:

  • Number of radial stairs
  • Number of levels
  • Number of sitting rows
  • Walkway width
  • ..

If you’re interested in reconstructions of historic or ancient cities: Contact us!



Modelling an Historic Arab City Centre in 3D using CityEngine – Continued

Okay, I keep coming back to this rule file tweaking various elements, this time I’ve added wind towers to it.   Wind towers aren’t a feature of every old Arabic urban area (that’s why I’ve included a switch to turn them on and off), but it felt wrong not to include them…

There’s still room for improvement, every so often I get features hanging in mid-air, probably because of some of the odd shapes.   The images below have are just taken straight from a webscene (no other rendering or enhancements).   This time the shapes the buildings are built on are real world plots from a job we’re working on (believe it or not this is work here for a real planning job!).

Some people may recognise my favourite water tower and TV mast from previous models… there are too many mosques here as well.
I want to next work on the utility networks, these poles are far to neat…
You can see my parking garage there….

Bringing it all together in CityEngine – Modelling Current & Historic London in 3D

Combining data in CityEngine is really easy, take this example I’m working on at the moment:

Using CyberCity3D real world 3D urban data saves time and improves the look of the model.

I’ve taken an old georeferenced map of London and I placed real world current 3D urban data from the nice people at CyberCity3D.   I’ve digitized one of the old barracks shown on the old map actually within CityEngine and run one of my generic office block rule files over it.   I’ve also run a floor level split rule over some of the CyberCity3D data (in the bright green) this has much more potential than just colouring or texturing buildings and I’ll be looking at this in detail soon…

For landscaping I’ve used a palm grove rule file, obviously I need to model new trees for this model!

Webscene view, old map has been compressed (hence poor quality), this can be improved…


This is obviously experimenting with different types of data and different sources of data,  I’m toying with the idea of doing a before and after 3D model of this area of London.  Then I might use some futuristic models to have some fun with it!

For those interested I used an extract of Greenwoods Map of London 1827 and data given to me by these guys at CyberCity3D.

Thanks goes to my wife @MMhartley who has an amazing online historic links resource…

Less is more? Modelling an Historic Arab City Centre in 3D using CityEngine

UPDATE: I’ve added more images at the bottom of the page…

So I can’t really share with you everything about a project but I can share some of the screenshots.  This is an urban renewal project we’re doing in Iraq.  One of the issues with 3D is how to visualise proposals for clarity.   My view is that “less is more”, try and make something photorealistic and people’s expectations of accuracy go through the roof, make the models more diagrammatic and you have the “it’s just a diagram” as an excuse for errors!


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Sharing Resources

You may not know but I work for Garsdale Design Limited and our work requires a lot of research, we use many websites in the course of our projects for information and research.  The list is very large and so we have decided to share these website links as well as reviewing and giving mini-guides to their use.   It’s part of a small publicity drive, but we benefit also by being able to access these links regardless of our location (did I say homeworking?!).

Our Heritage Specialist has started by sharing History, Heritage, Building Conservation and Archaeology links these can be found on Garsdale Design’s Resource Pages.

Please feel free to have a look at these pages, its very much work in progress at the moment and deciding how best to manage and display these links is a challenge!

Heritage Gateway

This is a handy little site I came across I already knew you could search through and see pictures of listed buildings in England (Images of England).   Now it seems this site lets you search multiple sites at National and Local levels to query many different historic record databases.  Great for professionals and those who are just interested in history.

Here you can search across NATIONAL and LOCAL records of England’s historic sites and buildings.